What is Dry Camping? 

Dry camping, in its simplest terms, is overnighting in the comfort of a motorhome, but without using the hookups. It’s best described as venturing down an arbitrary road and finding the perfect panoramic view of an undisturbed lake. Then, staying for as long as you like. 

Dry camping can also be referred to as boondocking, off-grid camping, dispersed camping, and off-the-cord camping. However, there are some subtle differences. For example, boondocking means that you are still dry camping but you set up in a very remote location. This is where you will find the most idyllic setting to relish the peacefulness of nature with no disturbances. 

Reasons to Go Dry Camping or Boondocking:

  • Enjoy the peacefulness, tranquility, and real beauty of nature
  • Appreciate the panoramic views, unobstructed
  • Take the comforts of home with you
  • Leave the stress of everyday life behind
  • An inexpensive way to camp and see the country
  • No fellow crowds of campers invading your space
  • No check-in and check-out times

With dry camping, you can enjoy the beauty of nature while bringing the conveniences of home with you. This means your own electricity, a flushing toilet, and the security of a camper with a locked door. 

So dry camping or boondocking, in reality, is the best of both worlds. It’s why most people fall in love the liberty and comfort dry camping allows them.  

How to Get Started with Dry Camping: Preparation and Practice

Whether you call it dry camping or boondocking, this activity is, more than anything, a gradual experience. It isn’t something you can rush into. Otherwise, you may find yourself out in the wilderness, stranded with no way to get help. So you may want to try something like car camping first.

Car camping is going camping with your car and a tent – in a place designated as a campground. This is where you can learn about what appeals to you with regards to spending time outside. The most important thing here is to talk to veteran RVers about the right camper for you. 

RVers are people who have adopted the RVing lifestyle. They can tell you everything about purchasing a camper or motorhome: its cost, its limitations, and its advantages. This is the time to make friends and network. It’s the preparation that will allow you to enjoy your peace and serenity with nature down the road. 

Pro Camping Tip:

Seasoned RVers can also tell you about the best – and the worst – camping destinations. Knowing where to camp when you are first starting out is the most valuable information you can have. Once you have mastered car camping, it’s time to buy a camper or motorhome.

 

Purchasing a Camper or Motorhome

Buying a camper or motorhome is the largest single expense you will have for dry camping. You may want to rent a few of them and try them out before you purchase one. Also, learning how to drive a motorhome or drive with a camper behind your vehicle is trickier than it looks. 

Remember, you will be driving down the highway with all the other traffic to get to your destination. You will also have to negotiate parking lots as well as rustic terrain if you choose to go boondocking. The first rule of dry camping is to buy the right size camper or motorhome. This should be a camper that is comfortably sized, but also one that everyone you take RVing can drive. 

List of RV Types for New RVers

Motorized RVs

  • Class A Diesel Motorhome
  • Class A Gas Motorhome
  • Class C Motorhome
  • Class B Motorhome

Towable RVs

  • Fifth Wheel Campers
  • Toy Haulers
  • Travel Trailers
  • Teardrop Campers
  • Pop-Up Campers

Pro Camping Tip:

You will want to make your first camper or motorhome a discounted one. This means buying a camper that is used, on sale, or last year’s model. A used camper may already be outfitted with a lot of the upgrades we are talking about here. 

Make sure not to buy a high-end camper which requires so much power you can’t use it off the grid. Explain to the person selling you the camper that you will be using it for dry camping. They may have a better camper or motorhome for this type of RVing.

Pro Camping Tip: 

Here are some questions to ask to find the best dry camping motorhome:

  • What is the capacity of the clean water tank? 
  • What is the capacity of the black and grey water tanks?
  • What is the capacity of the battery bank?
  • How can you recharge the battery bank? 

Pro Camping Tip: 

Ask yourself, what do I really need in a camper to make my time dry camping comfortable? 

Dry camping may test you and what you are made of, but it isn’t meant to torture you. More than anything, seasoned RVers find out what makes everyone in their camping party happy. Then they buy the motorhome that suits their fellow campers and their budget. 

Assessing Your Camper or Motorhome for Dry Camping

There is a lot of prep work to get your motorhome or camper ready for dry camping. Nevertheless, you don’t have to do everything all at once. This is one of the joys of pursuing the perfect dry camping experience. You can appreciate the learning process as much as the actual experience. 

So don’t overwhelm yourself with buying and rigging too many technical gadgets the first time out. In fact, you should get to know your camper’s limitations at a traditional campground with hookups first. 

Spending time to learn what modifications you need to make is the first step to successful dry camping. As you will quickly see, the two main concerns are having enough electricity and enough clean water.

Pro Camping Tip: 

The first upgrade you should buy is a battery monitoring system. A battery monitoring system will tell you how much battery power you are using and how much you have left.

This way, you’ll know whether you can keep running the air conditioner or need to shut it off. You should install this device before you go on any dry camping practice run. Then you’ll know what upgrades to make with regards to battery power. 

A battery monitoring system can also tell you how much electricity an RV solar power kit is generating. Then you will know how much electricity you are creating – as well as how much you are using. This is essential to making sure you have enough electricity for your entire dry camping trip. 

Pro Camping Tip: 

Try a practice run at a campground with hookups, just in case. Write the following information down during a weekend of camping without using the hookups:

  • How much fresh water was used each day? For what?
  • How quickly did the black water tank fill up?
  • How much battery powered was used each day? For what?
  • What features of the camper won’t work without hookups?
  • What features of the camper work without hookups, but are a drain on the battery?

By testing how long you can go without hookups, and by seeing what appliances work, you’ll know what to modify. However, the main reason you want to try dry camping first with hookups as a backup is simple. You want everyone camping with you to be confident that they will have all of life’s comforts wherever you go. 

So on this trial run, the hookups are right there when you run out of water and electricity. Flushing the toilet, taking a shower, and turning on the AC is reassuring for your fellow campers. This is extremely important, as your family may not share your love of dry camping.  

Pro Camping Tips: 

In general 400 amp hours seems to cover most camping trips for educated RVers.  

Eventually, a working knowledge of battery capacity, along with an understanding of power management is important. 

Preparing Your Camper or Motorhome for Dry Camping and Boondocking

Once you have completed an assessment of your camper or motorhome, you can check into modifying it. During your trial run for dry camping, people will notice you are not using the RVing hookups. This is the perfect opportunity to talk to fellow RVers about modifying your motorhome for dry camping. 

Picking a campground with Wi-Fi means you can immediately go online to check out their suggestions. The more information you get, and the more RVing websites you can bookmark, the better. 

When you are at home, here are some dry camping gadgets you can start checking out: 

  • Zero-flush composting toilet (conserves fresh water)
  • Solar power kit for RVing (generates extra power)
  • Pure sine wave inverter (converts solar power to electricity)
  • Additional RV batteries for extended power
  • Quiet, portable gas (or propane) generator
  • Automatic generator start
  • Temperature-sensitive vent fans
  • Mobile cell phone booster (something you can find easily on Amazon)
  • Water-saving showerheads
  • LED lights ( save up to 90% power)
  • Solar-powered Christmas & garden lights, flashlights
  • Solar oven
  • UV water purifying bottle (to provide fresh water)

As you can see, preparing a camper for dry camping is mainly about water, electricity, lights, and a bathroom. Once the basics are covered, the rest is more about personal comfort. 

Pro Camping Tips: 

These devices are not things you should go out and buy all at once. Not only is this cost-prohibitive, but it is frustrating to try to get everything working at the same. Make a list of the most important devices to the least important.

For example, if you are camping in the summer, you may not be able to go without air-conditioning. It would make sense to buy the portable gas (or propane) generator first to power it. If you are boondocking, make sure to have a mobile phone booster for emergencies.

A composting toilet (something to buy later) smells fresh and does not take up your black tank space. This is because you do not flush it into the black tank. You can empty a compost toilet right into the trash. This means you don’t have to find a black tank station to dump it. You can then combine your black and grey tanks. So you will double the capacity for grey water as well. 

By upgrading gradually, you will not only save money but also find equipment that works better for your situation. Experiment slowly, customize your RVing, and enjoy the process!

Finding Destinations for Dry Camping and Boondocking

As you prepare your camper for dry camping and boondocking, you can look for places to visit. As you talk to RVers in campgrounds and online, they will have some recommendations. 

Here are some websites to check out as well:

  • https://www.campendium.com/
  • https://freecampsites.net/
  • https://harvesthosts.com/
  • http://www.campgroundreviews.com/
  • https://www.rvtravel.com/apps-help-you-find-public-lands/

These are RVing websites that can help you find spaces to camp on public lands or in a campsites, including spots that have a dump station nearby. There are also people included who have land and don’t mind dry camping or boondocking guests. By the way, if you find an awesome spot for dry camping, leave a message on the website! 

Word of mouth from RVers is the best way for everyone to have a better boondocking experience!  

Pro Camping Tip:

You will find that there is a lot more space for boondocking and dry camping in the southwest. Once you go further east, there are fewer opportunities. People may say it’s okay to stay overnight at certain places that may not be legal in the east. These are places like Walmart, Cabela’s, rest areas, truck stops, beaches, and public streets. Always check around before you park your vehicle, even if you won’t be leaving the camper.   

Preparing for Breaking Down While Dry Camping or Boondocking

It’s always possible that you may break down or your camper may get stuck in the middle of nowhere. Being prepared beforehand is the smartest way to save a boondocking or dry camping trip.

Pro Camping Tip:

Checklist Before You Leave:

  • Communication devices charged
  • Mobile phone booster in the camper
  • First aid kit
  • Road flares
  • Full tank of gas at all times
  • Working mechanical knowledge of camper
  • Phone list of people who know your destination
  • Tool kit, spare tire, spare RV parts

To prevent any kind of disaster, make sure your first few trips are close to home. After you master dry camping or decide to do it full-time, you will love boondocking. Then you can also start making a list of places further away from home. 

These will be more exciting places and eventually breathtaking destinations – like national parks! What you will find is that dry camping will bring you a lifetime of wonderful memories. This, along with a true appreciation of the wilderness and the out-of-doors – without all the crowds!

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Sam Brooks

Sam Brooks

Hi, my name is Sam Brooks and I'm a huge hiking, fishing and camping enthusiast. I bring my dog Max as often as I can because he also loves the great outdoors. Although I consider myself a private person, I really want to share my passion and knowledge with the readers here at outdoorcommand.com